Recently, we had an opportunity to go whale watching off Newport Beach, California to celebrate our birthdays. We weren’t sure if we’d sight whales or not. We were happily surprised when the tour boat cruised straight into a feeding frenzy complete with Dolphins, Pelicans, Terns, and Seagulls. There were animals all around us. Nature at it’s most frenetic pace. I couldn’t ever decide where to point the camera because there was activity at all points of the compass. So I just began shooting. Here’s a tiny fraction of all the pics I got.
Dolphins love to swim along side boats. I don’t know why. Perhaps I should ask a dog why he chases cars. The thinking may be related. The tour guide said these were Common Dolphins. This particular pod were very friendly, and they often swam close to the boat. They even gave us an escort into the feeding frenzy.
Once in the feeding area, we saw dolphins all around us. The tour guide said there were as many as 500. But these dolphins were very busy eating. The quick cetaceans were hard to photograph because they never breached the surface for long. They weren’t there to pose, they were busy eating lunch. So I set the camera for continuous shooting aimed where I saw dolphins breaching and held down the shutter button.
Dolphins have many hunting tactics. The one employed on this day involves hunting small fish (Herring, Anchovies, Sardines). The dolphins swim around the fish releasing bubbles. This causes the fish to swim into a tight defensive ball called a “bait ball.” The dolphins do this until the fish are pressed against the water’s surface where there is no escape. At this point, the birds fly in and begin feeding along with the dolphins. The activity is constant and chaotic. Birds and dolphins were everywhere. Constant splashes marked where Pelicans had smashed into the water from vertical dives.
The next three photos are uploaded at full size of 4000px. I present these to show the degree of chaos happening all around us. Please click on them to see a larger image and witness the full effect.
I know that a number of sea birds dive into the water to catch fish. Somehow, I never realized that Pelicans do this too. On this day I caught these large birds in screaming dives over and over again. Birds smashed into the water constantly. It was an awe-inspiring sight.
At the end of the day, I was tired and sunburned. My lens was covered in water droplets and the battery was low. But it was a good day. A Great Day.
My wife took a ton of pics too. She got pics of a Blue Whale. Stay tuned to her blog for many more whale watching pics at the link below.